Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Our First Christian Holiday

Dear Friends,

I had read about a Washington D.C. politician who was vilifying the church and Christians because we don’t like the secular direction in which our Nation is going. He said, “If Christians don’t like it here, they can just go start their own country..”  Well..  Actually.. we already did that.. It’s called America.

It was November in 1620 when the Christian Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. 102 people had set sail for the New World from England on the Mayflower. Four died during the rough journey, and after landing, another 45 died during an unexpected bitterly harsh winter.

One year later in November 1621, the fifty-three survivors (including 14 teenagers and 13 small children) declared a Day of Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims (Puritans) were the English Protestant Reformers who had always set aside special days of worship and prayer and those Christian practices had not changed in the move to America. When the Pilgrims landed in this strange wilderness, they immediately struck up a friendship with the Indians who taught them how to plant and harvest corn. These Native Americans showed the Pilgrim men how to fish and how to hunt the wild turkeys. In return, the Pilgrims gave them tools and showed them how to use them. So when the Pilgrims declared a three day feast of worship, prayer and giving thanks to God, they celebrated their blessings with their new Indian friends. Ninety Wampanoag Indians brought five freshly-killed deer to the “church potluck” and joined the fifty-three Pilgrims for this Nation’s first Thanksgiving feast. 

These first settlers celebrated many more feast days of thanksgiving by acknowledging the Lord God as their Sovereign Provider thus providing a spiritual principle which has undergirded the foundation of our Nation. John Adams was the 2nd U.S. President and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Adams described the principles upon which our Country was founded and the Declaration of Independence was written: 

"The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were the.. general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United. Now I will avow, that I then believe, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System."

And by the time the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, Thanksgiving had been celebrated in America for over 150 years! From these first days in our Nation's history, days of thanksgiving were also periodically called by government leaders. And a yearly holy day (holiday) was established by a Presidential Proclamation in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November, “ a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” Congress later changed this day of celebration to the fourth Thursday in November.  

Thanksgiving is more than just food and football! It has always been, a uniquely American Christian holiday! We join in this wonderful tradition set forth by our Nation's Christian forefathers as we celebrate the majesty of God, giving Him praise and thanksgiving! 

"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever... Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works...” Psalm 107:1,8

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NOTE: More and more we are reading about those who are attempting to revise history and portray the Pilgrims as evil and the first Thanksgiving as a secular event. This from Christianity Today magazine is detailed and interesting.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Thanksgiving With Family This Year?

The NEW Thanksgiving! No masks required! Now you can enjoy your virtual Thanksgiving meal with the family in the privacy and safety of your own home. No more taking a tiny amount of Aunt Martha’s Jell-O Fruit Salad, eating that one polite bite and covering up the rest with your napkin when you help clear the table. Now you can gaze upon an ultra-high definition image of her jittery canned fruit without having to actually have it slip around on your plate and slime your turkey leg! Add a home theater surround sound system and you’ll replicate the authentic Thanksgiving experience of Ned’s false teeth clacking as he worries on a wing bone and your niece Brianna smacking her lips and softly belching as she reaches for another lumberjack-sized portion of mashed potatoes. And the best part is that after dinner you won’t need to sit on the couch between rowdy cousins Bill and Ed to watch a football game! You can just say goodbye and click on “Leave Meeting.”


For many of us, Thanksgiving will be different this year and we’re not at all happy about that. L.A. County permits Thanksgiving family dinners with no more than two households, outside, wearing masks, sitting six feet from each other and a two hour time limit. Oh..and each family should bring their own food and utensils. Yeah. Right. But a recent survey shows that 55% of people will ignore Health Department orders and spend Thanksgiving with their family the same as always. 40% say it will be with more than ten people and the majority say they won’t be wearing a mask.

For those evaluating the risk of being with family and friends on Thanksgiving, it would be wise to do so under the assumption that nobody will be wearing a mask. That’s because the guidelines to wear a mask in the company of others, except when you are eating, give us a false sense of protection and may impair our ability to wisely evaluate the risks. Let me explain. Most of us will be inside and the current guidelines are to wear a mask and stay six feet apart. We sit around and talk for, let’s say, an hour before the meal, removing our mask to drink and to eat the  appetizers. We all then remove the masks and for the next hour or so we sit two or three feet away from each other or across the table from each other while we eat, talk, joke, laugh and belch. (Okay maybe that last one is just my family) Studies have now shown that Covid is spread by talking and breathing and so, after filling the air with large droplets and aerosolized microdroplets from our lungs and potentially exposing everyone at the table to any virus we may have, we put the mask back on and return to the living room. That means that assessing the risk is asking yourself, “I’m I comfortable with the thought of every invited guest, possibly sitting unmasked three feet away from my face while they’re talking and laughing?”

In California where we are already experiencing a major surge in coronavirus cases, hospitals are preparing for a post-Thanksgiving rush that could be overwhelming. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases said last week that we need to evaluate the risk of gathering with family and friends. He tells us that we need to consider age, underlining medical conditions, testing and quarantine of people who have traveled. We also need to consider the life-styles of all others who will be invited to that Thanksgiving dinner. Are they mask or no mask people? Do they go to dinners at friend’s houses or restaurants? Hang out with a large circle of friends or shelter at home with the cats? Unless we know them well enough to answer those questions, we must consider them to be potentially “high-risk” to us. Dr. Fauci said that maybe right now is not the time to have people in your house when you have to take your mask off as you’re eating and he encourages us to “seriously think about the risk-benefit ratio” meaning that a Thanksgiving feast may not be worth the two weeks in the hospital. .

As much as we love Thanksgiving, we must set aside our emotional desire to be with family and friends and objectively consider the risk. Because the most reliable tests generate false positives and false negatives, testing isn’t the answer. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the current best estimate for Covid-19 infections that are asymptomatic is 40%. That’s why temperature screening and health questions are not the answer. As long as masks must be removed during the actual dinner, masks are not the answer. We need to use prayerful discernment in deciding how we spend our holidays this year. 

There are no “Covid Scriptures” in our Bible other than the one to “Love one another.” That means to do them no harm and we need to understand that our strong emotional desire to be with family and friends no matter what the risk, is a self-centered one that may impact the health of the loved ones we most desire to see. Loving others means not just evaluating the risk to ourselves but to our loved ones as well. I pray that God gives each one of us a heaping measure of both wisdom and discernment during these most difficult of decisions.  Amen?

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Election Stress Disorder

 Dear Friends,

WHERE: My Ophthalmologist’s Office (the one with the Bibles and Christian Tracts in his waiting room)

WHY: Yearly Checkup

WHEN: 0830 hrs – Wednesday Morning After  Election

Doctor: Big smile. Says, “So how’d you sleep last night?”

Me: “Took about 30 seconds to fall asleep because God is on the throne and in control.”

Doctor: (laughs) “Yes! We don’t put our trust in princes, in human beings...” quoting Psalm 146:3 NIV

Me: "And I think of the Psalm that tells us when nations rage and the kings set themselves on the throne, God sits in the heavens and laughs." quoting Psalm 2:1-4

Doctor: Grins, nods his head, looks at my chart and says “So.. any changes in your vision?”

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We are far more than just glad or sad. We are elated or devastated. America is finally back on the right track to peace and prosperity or it will be destroyed under the leadership of a progressive-leaning liberal administration. This election finally and fairly portrayed the will of the people or voter fraud stole the election and the democrats will fix it so that there will never again be another elected Republican president. Both candidates portrayed themselves as the savior of our Country and people worshiped one and vilified the other. Votes are in. The hate continues. The election is over but we’re not yet over the election. 

Hospitals in California are bracing for incoming patients suffering the mental and physical effects of what is now being called, “Election Stress Disorder.” Mental heath experts have said this election was a high stress event, especially with the amount of social media and news coverage dedicated to this year’s contentious race, and that potentially acts as a trigger for a panic attack which is when your body is feeling like you are in imminent danger. The hospital’s concern is that the symptoms for a panic attack can mimic more serious medical emergencies such as a heart attack. In 2016, some of us laughed at the fragile “snowflake” university students who were rushed to the hospital after seeing a Trump campaign sign and feeling “unsafe.” Now conservatives are being rushed to the hospital for their own anxiety-caused rapid heart beat and shortness of breath. It’s Deja Vu all over again!

That’s what happens when we’ve put our trust in a “prince” and he loses the election. Today it appears that a new prince may soon be enthroned in the White House, and while half of our Nation is rejoicing and the other half are buying guns and googling houses for sale in Canada, “God sits in the heavens and laughs.” 

Today, Joe Biden is calling himself the unifier of our country and the peacemaker. But I suspect that four years from now, we will look back at President Biden (or President Harris) and realize that once again we’ve put our trust in the wrong “prince” or “princess” as we have with every other elected president. And God will still be laughing. That’s because there is only one Prince of Peace and he’s neither Democrat nor Republican: “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Since the federal election for president is what’s causing us the most stress today, let’s turn first to the Federal Government for the best advice on what we must do to relieve our anxiety and regain perspective. The Federal Government prints on every piece of paper money and on every coin, our national motto: “In God We Trust.” If I’m not mistaken, I think our Bible would agree with that. And do a little self-examination now. The degree of your anxiety is inversely proportional to the amount of trust you have in God. High anxiety = low trust. High trust = low anxiety. God is a sovereign God, who is on the throne and in control of His Universe. You can believe it. You can trust in Him.

Secondly, there is a spiritual discipline called “detachment” that might be helpful for us to practice. Detachment is making important the things that bring us closer to God and detaching ourselves from those things that pull us away from God. Spiritual detachment has been described as a “serene acceptance” of our circumstances. Detachment or “intentional indifference” is mentally healthy but difficult to practice. Note that we detach, but we don’t disengage. Disengagement is disconnecting from society. Detachment is staying engaged but detaching emotionally. The first commandant is “Thou shall have no other gods before Me” and we have emotionally invested heavily in the god of politics. You can see that in the political rallies and protests. You see that in the hatred of others and resulting division in families, friendships and even in our churches. 

For many Christians, our strong emotional investment in secular politics is a disordered affection that has pulled us away from God. Appropriate engagement is your careful research of candidates and initiatives and seeking God’s will as you mark your ballot. Then emotionally stepping back and prioritizing to what and to Whom you give your time and your thoughts. I voted. I cared who won. But both myself and my Christian Ophthalmologist were able to detach and sleep soundly that night knowing that God was in control. He still is. He always will be. And that's why you can sleep well too. Amen?